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Kiobel Writ: OGONI 9 SHOW TRIAL: ill-treatment of lawyers and family members

On 19 February 1995, when Esther again tried to visit her husband, she was locked up by Okuntimo and tied naked to a chair. Then she was beaten with a koboko and sexually harassed and assaulted by Okuntimo.

By John Donovan

The numbered paragraphs below are extracted from the 138 page Esther Kiobel Writ served on multiple Royal Dutch Shell companies on 28 June 2017. More information is provided after the extracts. 


4.5 Ill-treatment of lawyers and family members

  1. Both lawyers and family members of the suspects were seriously intimidated, threatened and even ill-treated during the trial.138
  2. On several occasions the lawyers were denied access to the heavily protected court.139 For example, at the session of 21 February 1995 Fawehinmi related how that morning he was forced by Lt. Hassan, who worked directly under Okuntimo, under threat of violence, to board a police bus. Lawyer Falana was beaten in the same incident.140 These two lawyers were also unlawfully detained by the regime during (the run-up to) the trial.141
  3. Oso, Kiobel’s lawyer, related how he became the victim of serious intimidation. On arrival at the courthouse he was told to leave after which his driver was beaten up and his car destroyed.142 That same morning Saro-Wiwa’s 74-year-old mother was beaten up on the instructions of Lt. Hassan when she tried to enter the court.143
  4. When Kiobel was asked on 22 June 1995 whether he could arrange another lawyer since Oso had stopped his defence, he stated, to the annoyance of Judge Auta, how his family was being harassed by the army:

    “I have been detained since last year. I have no access to anybody to go and get any further information for anything or get a capable lawyer who will be able to stand to defend me. Surprisingly, Thursday last week, even my family at home and secretary to the Chief of my village are being chastised by the Armed Forces because of this matter.”144

  5. Earlier in the trial Esther Kiobel fell victim to Okuntimo’s practices. When she brought food for her husband, Okuntimo said that she could only do so if she went to bed with him. When she refused, Okuntimo ill-treated her in his office.145 Esther reported this to the Brigade Commander, who she also told that Okuntimo had sworn to her that her husband would be hanged as a result of the legal case.146 Okuntimo then instructed the police to arrest Esther each time she tried to visit her husband.147
  6. On 19 February 1995, when Esther again tried to visit her husband, she was locked up by Okuntimo and tied naked to a chair. Then she was beaten with a koboko and sexually harassed and assaulted by Okuntimo.148 Then she was kept prisoner by him for some time.149 When this was raised at the tribunal, the prosecutor said that she had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. In reality however she was, as later became apparent, being held at the police station in Kpor.150
  7. Victoria Bera was also twice unlawfully detained. The first time was at Bori Camp when she tried to take her husband food. On her way to her husband she was locked up. She was pregnant at the time. She was taunted with the following: “If you get your baby, you can replace your husband”. She was held all day and at the end of that day she was released without explanation. The second time she was arrested was the day after the executions, on 11 November 1995. Bera was on her way home with her sister and her baby. They were all arrested without explanation and held in Gokana. Okuntimo was present there too. After more than eight hours’ detention, she was again released without explanation.

Extracts end


138 Letter dated 23 May 1996 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the General Assembly, 28 May 1996, A/50/960 (exhibit 233), p. 14: “The military was involved in all phases of the trial, as a result of which serious allegations were made affecting the credibility of witnesses, freedom of access to the tribunal and intimidation of the accused, their relatives and other members of the public”.

139 Letter dated 23 May 1996 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the General Assembly, supra, p. 14: “The defence counsel were harassed by the military personnel by requiring them to request permission of them to enter the courts and submitting them in the process to hardship, indignities and waste of time”.

140 Exhibit 180: Transcripts 21 February 1995, p. 4-5; Birnbaum (exhibit 255), para. 13.3, 13.4.

141 Exhibit 108: Nigeria Update 24 October 1994: “Release of Gani Fawehinmi […] this radical lawyer has been released from jail on bail […] he is also the main defense lawyer for all those activists who have been put away, including Saro Wiwa”. Exhibit 187: Transcripts 24 May 1995, pp. 1-2. Exhibit 188: Transcripts 26 May 1995, p. 2 et seq. Exhibit 189: Transcripts 31 May 1995, p. 10: Falana notes here : “I have been to detention for almost fifty times but they have never charged me for anything.”

142 Transcripts 21 February 1995 (exhibit 180), p. 7.

143 Transcripts 21 February 1995 (exhibit 180), p. 5.

144 Transcripts 22 June 1995 (exhibit 193), p. 4.

145 See exhibit 175: written affidavit Barinem Kiobel: “Earlier on 29/12/94 while I was at Afam. He denied access to me by my wife unless she goes to bed with him. When my wife refused, Paul Okuntimo had her beaten up in his office”’.

146 Transcripts 21 February 1995 (exhibit 180), pp. 8-9.

147 Written affidavit Barinem Kiobel (exhibit 175).

148 Written affidavit Barinem Kiobel (exhibit 175); Transcripts 21 February 1995 (exhibit 180), p. 8

149 Counter-affidavit Barinem Kiobel, undated (exhibit 174), pp. 4-5; Public Deposition Esther Kiobel,vol. II, 5 December 2003 (exhibit 37), p. 361.

150 Transcripts Ogoni 9 trial, 6 February 1995 (exhibit 179), p. 45

Footnotes end


The numbered paragraphs above are extracted from the English translation of a 138 page Writ of Summons served on Royal Dutch Shell companies on 28 June 2017 by Dutch Human Rights law firm Prakken d’Oliveira. They represent four widows including Esther Kiobel who hold Shell liable for the murder of their husbands individual Ogoni leaders now known collectively as the ‘Ogoni Nine‘. MOSOP Chairman Ken Saro-Wiwa was one of the group. For the purpose of this online publication, the footnotes are indicated in red text.

Disclosure: The lead claimant Esther Kiobel, Channa Samkalden of the Dutch human rights law firm Prakken d’Oliveira representing the widows, and the acclaimed human rights organisation Amnesty International, have all acknowledged the involvement of John Donovan in bringing this case. (See Writ of Summons in English and Dutch served on Shell 28 June 2017)

Shell blanket denial: Shell’s blanket denial of any responsibility for the ‘Ogoni Nine’ executions and related events/allegations can be read here

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